Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece.
This week, students on campus will stand in solidarity with Palestine. From March 29 to March 31, the Palestinian Solidarity Committee will organize events where students can promote awareness and advocacy for Palestine, while learning more about the human rights crisis and the political tensions hindering peace in the region.
Story by Zoya Zia
The University of Texas at Austin is one of hundreds of colleges and universities around the world participating in Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual, international movement which brings attention to Israel’s day-to-day apartheid policies. This is the twelfth year the justice movement has taken place.
This week is relevant because the current situation in Palestine is violent and the occupation continues to ruin the lives of Palestinians. “Israeli Apartheid Week is an important part to countering the normalization of the occupation, which makes up the majority of the rhetoric we see on campus,” student government Diversity and Inclusion Director Myra Ali says.
Ali says she has noticed attempts to slander Pro-Palestinian groups and students on campuses around the nation. One example is The Israel Block Party, a pro-Israel campaign that promotes Israel as a democracy. The campaign often hands out pamphlets on how the country promotes diversity and inclusion. Israeli Apartheid Week will fill in the blanks that the party leaves out by shining light on the Palestinian experience.
PSC students at UT have faced backlash for their efforts to raise awareness about the problems in the region. Last semester, a student was involved in a physical altercation with a professor at a lecture discussing the culture of the Israeli Defense Forces, which often discriminates against Palestinians.
In such a hostile climate, students must come together to promote Palestinian perspectives. “What people don’t realize is that the counter-narrative of ‘we need to have a discussion’ and the need to equate the power and realities of the Palestinians with Israel is an effort to normalize the occupation,” Ali says. “There is nothing normal about apartheid, settlements, or settler colonialism.”
Ali says she finds it ironic how some who support Israel claim to be interested in hearing both sides of the story, because things hardly work out that way. Instead, she says, these supporters promote narratives that offer legitimacy to Israel’s policies. Campaigns like Israeli Apartheid Week are becoming increasingly necessary. “Anytime Palestinian students attempt to speak out and take agency of their narrative, they are deemed too extreme and radical,” Ali says.
The campaign kicks off on Tuesday, March 29 with “No Walls Between Us: Building Intercommunal Solidarity.” This event provides an opportunity for students of different backgrounds to initiate dialogue with one another. PSC says this panel discussion “aims to explore how connections are drawn between various struggles, how solidarity is and can be used in the fight against imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy and state violence.”
On Wednesday, March 30, there is an Israeli Block Party Protest from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the East Mall. This event is a response to the Israel Block Party. PSC argues that the organizers of IBP “have contributed or participated in whitewashing the crimes of Israeli apartheid.” Most attendees are estimated to show out in support of PSC between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Educational speakers will also be among the attendees.
The week concludes with two events on Thursday, March 31. First, there will be a Mock Checkpoint from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the West Mall. PSC says this event is meant “to display the ways in which Palestinian movement is severely restricted under Israeli occupation.” This visual representation of apartheid is free and open to the public.
The day ends with Cafe Resistance: Performance Night with PSC. This event includes performances and intersectional solidarity. Personal experiences and community talent will be told through poetry, art, music and dance, showcasing personal experiences and community talent. PSC says the evening will use art “to resist all forms of oppression.”
Latin American studies and Mexican American studies sophomore Carlos Salamanca emphasizes the importance of student attendance this week. “Students should care because they have classmates whose families are directly affected by the Israeli state’s brutality towards indigenous Palestinians,” Salamanca says. “When it comes to the oppression and ethnic genocide that is currently taking place in Palestine, no one wants to speak up.”
Regardless of one’s level of knowledge or stance on the conflict, this week provides a chance to elevate voices otherwise not heard. “Students should attend to learn that the perfect, democratic state that Israel lauds itself to be comes at the expense of the lives of thousands of innocent, indigenous Palestinians,” Salamanca says.